So I decided to start a little challenge for myself - to travel the world with the books I read.
While I've always been very loyal to Irish writers, and there are many many wonderful Irish writers, both north and south, male and female, old and new - I've long been fed up with the emigration story and often pick up books just for the sake of going somewhere new. And I almost have to put on blinkers when I pass Waterstones - their book of the month nearly always ends up in my bag.
Anyway, looking around the web at reading challenges, I came across Tale Away, a fantastic blog written by Ash, an American woman who regularly puts up challenges to read 52 books from 52 different countries each year and her suggestions are fabulous. I'm not following her challenge as I've already read a lot of the titles on her suggestions lists and I don't get through that many books in a year either, So my challenge to myself is to read a book from or about every country in the world - ideally written by someone from that country but as long as it's set there, that will be enough. I've no time limit as I'll likely wander off at various times to read the latest best sellers and books by local writers, and some of the books by new to me authors will almost certainly send me in search of more that they've written, but it's already a fun journey.
So for this year, here's the pile of books I've been through so far. I mostly only read at night, so I don't get through many books a month, but a lot of these have been real epics, and not all will go onto my books of the world list.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - a lot of people didn't like the tv show of this book which I haven't watched, and I've never read any Atwood books before which was why I picked it up before I started this challenge (although I might cheat and add her as a Canadian entry). I found it fascinating for a book written 30 years ago and so much of it is scarily possible in this crazy world we're in at the minute.
Dirt Music by Tim Winton - the book that started this idea. An interesting story of a dysfunctional community on the south west corner of Australia - and the journey up the full length of the west coast was fascinating and the landscape was well described.
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce - set in England and not really a travel type book, there was a fascinating insight into classic and classical music in this story of a record shop owner who has the gift of knowing what piece of music a distressed person needs to hear to heal. And there was a great Spotify playlist added at the end which I've listened to several times.
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks - a collection of short stories that all revolve around a typewriter. I'm not particularly into short stories but I was interested to see what Tom would write and they were very enjoyable short night time reads and his voice is almost audible in the way he writes.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. What can I say. This book was amazing - really a 5* from me. It's not recent and I'm sure many of you have already read it, it held me enthralled the whole way through. Set in Afghanistan during the rise and subsequent fall of the Taliban, it's the story of two women thrown together.
Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi - this is set in Germany between the two wars and again it's a fabulous story, a suggestion I got from Ash's blog . The lead character is superb - she's a dwarf and thereby an outsider and is featured in other books by this writer which I will definitely look into. We spend so much time in Germany and yet I had not read any books by German writers before and the translation was very good as well. I loved the fact that it left some German words untranslated, words that are already in the English language or are well enough explained that you understand what they mean.
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende - although the country isn't specified in this book, it is definitely South America and it had a really surreal cast of characters, but then that's Isabel Allende's trademark isn't it? It wasn't one of my favourite of her books but still an enjoyable story.
Small Island by Andrea Levy - Oh, I adored this book - another 5* from me. And it explained a lot to me, or rather pointed out a lot, of the awful discrimination suffered by the Windrush people who came from Jamaica to help out in Britain's call for workers after the war. Great story, beautifully written and a wonderful cast of characters.
Tangerine by Christine Mangan - I only picked this up because of the title and it gave me a north African storyline but for me it didn't hit the spot.
There's more to come, but I'll not bore you just yet.